RELAXING is an attractive concept, particularly suited to Sundays. It is paradoxical, then, to hear that the Government plans to “relax” the Sunday-trading laws for a year to help to stimulate the post-pandemic economy, when such a move would mean the end of relaxation for many. Government ministers work long hours, perhaps even on a Sunday; but they can choose how to organise their hours, and are well remunerated for their labours. Retail workers have no such freedom, and the safeguards for those who would prefer not to work on a Sunday have all but evaporated.
Time and again,the Conservatives, goaded by large retail chains (small shops are exempt from restrictions on opening hours), have battered away at the laws protecting Sundays, leaving them chipped, but intact. Now the Government sees its best opportunity yet; for who could argue against the provision of more work? Yet one thing learnt in these past three months is that time spent with one’s family is irreplaceable and precious. Equally important is the realisation that the pleasures of consumerism are hollow and fleeting: many have learned the wisdom of spending less, saving more, and using their time to better effect. It is this prudence that the Government wishes to dismantle, tempting people back into the old dispensaries of short-cycle materialism. Ministers need to hear from the Church and from others interested in the welfare of some of the country’s poorest workers that this is not “building back better”. Of course, jobs are important; but if the Government truly wished to stimulate the economy, it would relax its stance on another set of economic proposals that, certainly in the short term, are far more likely to cause the country further harm, namely leaving the EU.
IT IS to be hoped that the police in Bristol catch and prosecute the people responsible for the vandalism to the statue of Edward Colston at the weekend. An appeal for funds to cover any fines is likely to leave them well in pocket, and will reveal a high level of approval for the action. For too long, this country has fallen into the trap of tolerating monuments to men of dubious qualities, treating them as inoffensive street furniture. When those managing the public square fail repeatedly to provide a balanced historical record, those using the public square will take matters into their own hands.